Spoiler section at the bottom. Ample warning posted.
Generation War is an Interesting Docudrama
I recently was pointed to Generation War on Amazon and being a fan of history and a World War II buff, I was pleasantly surprised by this three episode miniseries.
It’s a World War II movie about the German East Front but it’s told from the perspective of the Germans.
Specifically five German friends.
As a big con, it’s a German Language film and if you’re an American viewer, you’ll need to turn on the subtitles (except if you speak German, obviously).
There is very adamant anti National Socialist movements in Germany that work vigorously to keep the Nazi’s from re-emerging, primarily by keeping knowledge about the Socialist movement in the 1930’s – 1940’s out of the general public.
You certainly can’t say anything positive about the National Socialists in Germany!
However, “Generation War” is anything but sympathetic to the Socialists!
I’m not recommending this show unconditionally.
However, there is tremendous value to this project. It’s a ‘good’ historical and realistic look at Germany during World War II and the horrors that Socialism wrought on that society.
The costumes are spot-on, the props look right, the vehicles look right, the events portrayed are portrayed very well.
It’s a docudrama based on actual people and actual events.
The production values are top notch.
This show is a dystopian nightmare!
I’ve already mentioned that the languages are authentic. The Germans speak German, the Poles are speaking Polish, and the Russians Parooski. I needed the subtitles, and you probably will too.
This story is also set in the nightmare setting of the German Eastfront during World War II where some of the worst war crimes were committed by both sides. The ‘characters’ in “Generation War” had to deal with these atrocities. Though these events aren’t always confronted head on by the film producers the subjects aren’t shied away from either.
Neither are the horrors and terror inflicted by the principles of Socialism. This is a good and brutal examination of how Socialism “works.”
Appropriately rated TV-MA on Amazon Prime for War Violence, Gore, Sex (little nudity though) and one depiction of Rape, plus the near constant smoking that was common in that era, this is not a kid’s movie. It might be appropriate for older mature teenagers in the context of a historical docudrama, (especially if some moron is trying to convince them that Socialism is somehow beneficial).
If you’re interested, you can watch Generation War on Amazon Prime.
Yep, I’m going to go into a discussion on some details about this movie and there will be Spoilers!
“Generation War” is fascinating because it’s a docudrama and it’s the recollections of the surviving protagonists.
It starts as five friends get together to celebrate as each prepares to depart.
Two of the friends are brothers Wilhelm & Friedhelm Winter and both are departing as German Infantrymen. The older brother is an Officer, a lieutenant, while the younger is an enlisted man in the same unit.
One of the young girls, Carlotte has volunteered to be a staff nurse in the Army, and she too will be posted on the East Front.
Greta, our fourth friend is an aspiring entertainer and she has aspirations of becoming a professional singer.
Greta’s boyfriend Viktor Goldstein, is a Jewish tailor.
All are life long residents from Berlin and much of the first episode follows these five as they try to reminisce and gather together one last time before three of them depart for their wartime duties.
Much of the obstacles that they face that evening deal with the oppressive Socialist policies (anti dancing laws, restrictive music, anti Jewish curfews, etc) which ultimately drive the five to take their party to Greta’s flat.
But even that party is broken up by the Gestapo.
The rest of the series follows these five friends as they cope with their wartime experiences.
The Winter brothers deal with their deployments as Wilhelm turns into a capable leader with the younger Friedhelm quickly devolving into a jaded and contrarian infantryman. Friedhelm is the unit screw up primarily because he’s not eager to die.
It’s also obvious that the Nazi brainwashing didn’t work on Friedhelm, which also puts him as an outsider in the unit.
Carlotte’s introduction to the Army field hospital is difficult. She’s a well trained nurse, but is psychologically and mentally ill prepared for the brutal rigors one would face in a military hospital.
Slowly she acclimates to her environment and befriends a local ‘nurses aid’ who helps Carlotte deal with the patients and the patience needed to acclimate.
Unfortunately the aid is a Jewish Doctor. And possibly a thief stealing medical supplies for the local partisans. (It’s unclear whether that accusation is true or not). But she’s eventually arrested for being Jewish and disappears.
Greta and Victor find themselves in a nasty “love” triangle as Greta attempts to advance her singing career by becoming the mistress to one Colonel Dorn!
And on top of that Viktor is trying to convince and help get his father and mother out of Germany (preferably to the USA). The anti Jewish sentiment in Germany is progressively getting worse and anyone who’s read Mein Kampf knows how far Hitler intends to take his anti-Semitism.
Viktor’s father, (like many Jews at the time) is a stalwart German (and World War I veteran) who loves his country and has no desire to leave his homeland.
And like millions of other Jews, Viktor’s parents are shipped off.
Greta tries to protect Viktor and convinces Colonel Dorn to prepare a passport for Viktor so that the young tailor can escape.
Dorn instead has Viktor picked up and shipped to a concentration camp, headed for Auschwitz-Birkenau.
En-route, Viktor is convinced by a fellow prisoner a Polish girl named Alina to escape from their cattle car and both leap from their train. These two end up working with the Polish partisans.
The war scenes involving the Winter brothers are well done and the war starts off well enough for the two once the fighting begins.
The two brothers survived some pretty harrowing attacks and both are injured at different times. I was so certain in the demise of both of these characters in turn that I thought their survival stories were so contrived as to seem to be surviving solely as result of writers fiat. And then it becomes obvious that this is a Docudrama.
It gets to a point in the story where both brothers think the other is dead. Both wind up under the care of Carlotte at different times and those lead to some nice opportunities for reunion.
Carlotte has a definite crush on the elder Wilhelm, but Wilhelm is sufficiently convinced that his survival is so uncertain that he doesn’t want to encourage her and spare her from the pain that his death would inevitably cause should they be pursuing a more serious relationship.
The two brothers are briefly involved with some of the Nazi war crimes as Polish Jews are rounded up and Russian civilians are hunted and slaughtered. Both of the Winter Brothers get themselves into hot water with their superiors for trying to stand up against these atrocities.
And then the war turns into the favor of the Russians.
In spite of only being three episodes, this story covers five years of time and does a good job of illustrating the crazy environment that existed in Eastern Europe.
One of the thing that makes this story interesting and more compelling is how the lives of these five people continue to intersect with each other during the war.
Greta and Carlotte spend some days together in the Army Hospital and Greta comes face to face with the brutal realities of war.
There are casualties that cycle through the hospital and Carlotte becomes a bridge for the Winter brothers and some of their stories.
There are a couple of interesting scenes involving Friedhelm and Viktor as Friedhelm is assigned to hunt Polish Partisans and Viktor is operating with the hunted team that Friedhelm’s unit is rooting out with their friendship helping the two survive.
Dramatically, the surviving friends (not all of these kids survive) wind up back at the bar where they started for a very sobering reunion. I love the pan out as the friends wrap up their reunion to show the bombed out ruins of Berlin as the German’s survivors sift through the ruins as they work to rebuild their ruined lives.
“Generation War” is a highly educational show. If you’re not familiar with this subject, “Generation War” does a good job of concisely introducing you to some of the more vicious and brutal aspects of how the National Socialists brought ruin and devastation to Europe.